An Engineer's Thoughts About Christmas

A repost from a few years ago. Maybe it will be new for someone. Merry Christmas.

There are approximately 378 million Christian children in the world according to the Population Reference Bureau. At an average census rate of 3.5 children per household that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west. This works out to 967.7 visits per second. This is to say that for each household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh; hop out; jump down the chimney; fill the stockings; distribute the remaining presents under the tree; eat whatever snacks have been left for him; get back up the chimney; jump into the sleigh; and get on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations, we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household--a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second--3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run at best 15 miles per hour.

The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set weighing two pounds, the sleigh is carrying over 500,000 tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the flying reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with nine of them--Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth, the ship not the monarch.

Six hundred thousand tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance--this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.

Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of acceleration from a dead stop to 650 miles per second in one-thousandth of a second, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa which seems ludicrously slim would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4.3 millions pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.

Merry Christmas!


50,000 Rockets

This looks like a fun celebration. What's not to like about 50,000 handmade rockets. We need some celebrations like this here. I'm thinking we could work this into the 4th of July somehow.

Greek Rocket War
Uploaded by DiagonalView. - Sitcom, sketch, and standup comedy videos.


Truth Is

People have been arguing, oops debating, what happens to people when they die for centuries. Some think you go to heaven or hell. Some believe you are re-incarnated. Some think nothing happens. And there are many other variations too.

However, all of those options cannot be true. Only one is true. There are not all of these alternate realities so Christians can go to heaven or hell and atheists can take a big dirt nap and other people can be reincarnated and so on. Only one of those options will happen. We can debate which one is true until we are blue in the face. But it will be difficult, if not impossible, to scientifically prove what fate awaits us when we die. But that doesn't change the fact that one of those options is true and others are not true. Because 'truth is.' Truth exists regardless of what you or I believe. 2 + 2 = 4 whether or not I believe it to be true. Because 'truth is.' I can believe there is no God, but that doesn't change the fact of whether there is or is not a God. Because 'truth is.'

Have you seriously considered what will happen when you die? It is something worth thinking about. If you come to the conclusion that heaven is a possibility, are you taking the necessary steps now to make certain that's where you will spend eternity? That's worth pondering about...
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."  John 14:1-4 (NIV)


Typography and Conviction

Great video showing some very cool typography. Not only that, this really hits home a point about speaking with authority and conviction.

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

How much conviction and authority do you speak with? That's worth pondering about.


25 years

Today is my 25th wedding anniversary. It's hard to believe that 25 years has gone by so fast. It's hard to believe that I'm old enough to have been married 25 years.

It's been a great ride Linda. I love you more each day.


Cool Guitar Playing

Here's an interesting little bit of guitar playing. He really gets going toward the middle of the video.


Except for Just One Thing...

Have you ever used a product that was so close to being just perfect for it's intended use, except for just one thing. That's a big "except," isn't it?

Here's an example. One of the companies that we buy food for our two birds from packages their product in a wonderfully thick plastic bag with a heavy duty zip lock top. This is awesome as it can be difficult to keep bugs out of the bird seed. But there is just one thing. (Isn't there always?) The opening of the bag is too small. So when the bag gets about half empty you can't fit your hand in the bag with a little scooper to get food out. What I end up with a product, with it's packaging, that is so close to perfect. Yet a simple defect makes it so difficult to use that we only purchase that product as a last resort.

It's a great bike, except for just one thing...
As an engineer it just drives me crazy that something could be so close to perfection and yet so far. I wish someone had just done a little testing. And there are plenty of more issues like this in products we use daily. It drives me nuts. Yet we as the customer allow companies to sell us items that aren't as good as they could/should be, because we keep buying them. We should hold these companies to a higher standard.

The only place that I know of where you won't get the "except for just one thing" is with God. Products have their exceptions. "It's a really great car, except...." The software that we use has its exceptions. "This is a great program, except I can't figure out how to ...." Our friends have exceptions. Religion certainly has it's exceptions. God does not have exceptions.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:8
Have you tried God? Or are you basing your beliefs on what someone else told you? God has no exceptions. He can handle all the problems. God doesn't promise us a perfect life. Be he is the beginning and the end and everything in between. Are you willing to turn your problems and exceptions over to him? That's worth pondering about.


Bad Logic

One of the things that always gets me, is when someone used bad logic to make a good point. Like somehow that makes it OK.

A classic example is "You have two ears, but only one mouth. So it's more important to listen than to talk." NO! You have two ears because God is wise and understands physics. Two ears allow stereo hearing which enables you to tell the direction a sound is coming from. That's a very useful thing. Two eyes allow stereo vision which enables depth of field. It has nothing to do with what's more important. Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with listening. It's a valuable skill. But it's not more important because you have more ears than mouths. Using that logic, walking is more important than thinking because you have two legs and only one brain. Grabbing someone is better than hugging someone because I have 10 fingers and only two arms. Yea, that doesn't work.

Sometimes we ignore good logic and listen to really bad advice. Usually because we want to do something and we really aren't looking for advice, we are looking for affirmation. So we rationalize and ignore good logic to accept the bad logic. It's bad enough that we can be our own problem when trying to use reason to come to a good conclusion, but sometimes people in positions of influence intentionally try to obscure the truth with bad logic and bad advice. It's enough to confuse anyone.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:7

Who are you listening too? Have you carefully evaluated whether they have your best interest at heart? That's worth pondering about....


Size matters....

I don't know how my wife does it. She can walk into a clothing store and go to any type of clothing, pick up her size, take it home and it fits. It doesn't matter if it's jeans, shorts, skirts or tops. It's always the same. She just holds it up and somehow declares this will fit and it does. It is amazing.

I on the other hand, know the exact manufacture of my jeans AND the exact model AND the exact size and can't get them to fit. I don't understand how I can take off my old jeans, put on the exact same make, model and size and have them fit differently. They will be too long, too short, too big, too small, too something. It drives me nuts. I have shoes, that I regularly wear, that range from size 10.5 to 12. That's not even close to the same. I've been buying the same brand of walking shoes for a while. Last time I went to the store I had to get them a size and half larger so they would fit. I'm pretty sure my foot is not longer than it used to be.

This just frustrates me to no end, which is why I hate shopping for clothes. Congress should be doing something about this catastrophe!

Size matters. It matters in more than just our clothes. It matters in our living quarters. It matters in personal space. It matters in the garage/storage unit. It matters on our hard disk. It matters in our TV size. It matters in the amount of food we get for a meal. It matters when we select a church to belong too. Size matters in a lot of places. When the size is right, we don't even think about it. It's just so perfect it's not even something that crosses our mind. When it's wrong, it is so frustrating and it drives us nuts.

Fortunately God understands that.
"And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." Matt 10:30 (NIV)
If he's got the hair on your head numbered, he won't get the size wrong. Don't fall into the trap of thinking something is too big, or too small, for God to be concerned about. What is the thing that you are dealing with that you are concerned God won't help you with? The thing that you feel like you need to deal with on your own. That's worth pondering about....



I was filling out one of those online satisfaction surveys that has a possibility to win some grandiose prize (ok, it was just an iPod). The game has one of those spinny wheel thingies that will tell you if you've won. I give it a spin and before it's finished spinning and I know the results, I have an email telling me I didn't win.

I can safely assume it is rigged.


Patience is ....

over-rated. I need some patience and I need it now! Seriously though, you've probably heard that "patience is a virtue." I guess that's why it can be quite difficult for me to have patience, I'm just not that virtuous some days.

What can really make it hard for me to be patient, is incompetence. It frustrates me to no end when I'm dealing with someone who is just plain old incompetent. It's even worse when you are paying for the privilege of dealing this with this individual. Business and organizations that want me to spend money with them, but then hire people who are incapable of doing the job just drive me crazy.

I recently had way too much fun with the L.A. World Honda dealer. We've been getting our cars serviced there for quite a while. To make a long story short, they really screwed up and wanted me to pay nearly $4000 to fix their mistake. Can you say "forget that"? I told the service rep that their mess up was going to cost them way more than $4000, because I was going to take my three Hondas somewhere else from now on. They'd more than recoup their money if they fixed their mistake and made it right. They didn't want anything to do with it. Maybe my 3 little Hondas just aren't enough to affect them, I don't know. But in any case, I'm done with them.  I found another shop to fix their mistake and it only cost me $2500. (I still think the dealer should have fixed it for free...) But if you need a great transmission shop, I HIGHLY recommend Stu's Transmission on Cherry Ave in Long Beach, CA. Great place. Oh and did I mention that you should avoid L.A. World Honda like it's the plague? But in all the hassle, I had to learn to be patient -- once again. It wasn't easy because I really wanted to choke someone.

Why is it harder to act like a responsible, decent human being, than it is to be a complete jerk? Maybe because we are all a little weird and dysfunctional. Maybe because it's just easier to take the low road instead of the high road. Maybe because we think expressing some of our frustration will make everything better - or at least make us feel better. Neither of which is true in my experience. So I guess I need to continue to work on my patience. Sigh....

What virtue do you need to work on? That's worth pondering about.



Blogger has rolled out a new tool for updating the look and feel of your blog. I was so impressed with their new template designer that I got all inspired and stuff and put a new virtual coat of paint on the place. Their tool is so easy to use, I could update the look every week. Ok, maybe that's not the best idea. But if you have a blog on Blogger, I highly suggest you check it out.


People are......

weird. Yup, that's right people are weird. All people are weird. Some are weirder than others. And what's weird to some, might not be weird to others. But in one way or another, we are a little weird.

Here's a recent example in my little world...

I was going into work one morning and a woman entered using a different entrance about the same time. In this particular building you have to sign in if you arrive before 7am. She looks at me and realizes I'm going to make it to the sign-in book before she is. Apparently this is a big problem for her and she actually starts running to make it to the book before I do. So there she is running across the lobby in her high heels to make to the to sign-in book before the guy with the motorcycle helmet in his hand. Definitely weird, but no biggie - I wasn't in that much of a hurry to get to work. However, when she got to the sign-in book, she wrote her name with... well I don't really know how to describe it, I guess I'll just say with much flair and dignity. I am not sure why, maybe she's recently taken some calligraphy classes at the local adult night school and she wants to get her monies worth. Anyway, it took her like a minute and half to write her name, the time and the company she works for. It took me like 10 seconds. So she ran to get in front of me to write slowly and take her time. The whole thing was just weird.... especially for 6am in the morning.

Obviously, this is not a major event, but it illustrates the point well. We all do weird things. Things that from other people's point of view - make no sense at all. I'm sure that woman had a good reason, at least to her, for her weird behavior - but that reason completely alludes me. It's just weird.

So the next time some disappoints you, or hurts your feelings or is just plain old strange - remember that people are weird. ALL people are weird. And that includes you too.


Rule Followers

Have you ever met someone who HAS to follow the rules? Always. Everytime. No room for just winging it a bit. These are the people who can't just pick up a game and play it. They have to read every single rule and follow them precisly and exactly or they won't play. They can't just play a game for the fun of it. Those people can be bit annoying sometimes.

Now, don't get me wrong. It's good to have rules and it's good to follow those rules. I'm glad we have rules for driving and that most people follow them. That's good stuff. But sometimes people use rules as an excuse to do things a certain way - mostly so they won't have to think. If you have a procedure to follow at work for something and you want to trying improve the process - the rule followers will fight you all the way. Again, it's good to have some rules at work. There are somethings that just have to to be done. But when you are trying to improve the process or sometimes even just get by as best you can in the current situation, the rule followers can be a big pain. They will complain that you are doing it wrong and just generally be a pain in the neck. Of course, they rarely have any positive suggestions for improvement.

Listen to what they have to say, but if they are just complaining to complain - or they are just complaining because you aren't follow the rules, don't let them get to you. You've got a better idea. Keep after it. Don't let the stone throwers stop you. After all, nothing would ever get invented or improved if we all did everything the same way all the time.

What's your idea? Are you keeping after it? That's worth pondering about....


A Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

When you get to work and the security guard tells you that only one of the 4 elevators in the building is working, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

It's good because I was at work earlier than most and there wasn't a huge demand for that one elevator.
It's bad because I wondered what my odds of getting stuck in the last elevator in a failing system are.

It's good because I didn't have to take the stairs to my floor.
It's bad because I didn't get the exercise of taking the stairs.

It's good because I safely arrived at my floor.
It's bad because I wonder how poorly our elevators were made and how poorly they are maintained.

Most of what happens to us in a our daily lives has a good side and a bad side. The question is, what side do you spend the most time dwelling on? That's worth pondering about....


Rain, Response and Re-Think

Rain in So Cal is a funny thing. For one thing, it makes the native Californians a little crazy. Secondly, it makes the transplanted Californians remember other places they lived with rain – sometimes with fond memories, sometimes it re-enforces why they moved. Thirdly, it never just rains in So Cal. It's always a storm. The local news goes crazy with “StormWatch.” They put our all their reporters out in various locales so they can comment on whether or not any moisture is falling from the sky yet. Sometimes it’s almost too much.

But the one place that rain really messes up, is the freeways. When it rains in So Cal, it divides people into two groups. Those who don’t slow down one bit and those who nearly stop completely. Neither of these options is the appropriate response. When the roads get slick from the rain, it’s a good idea to slow down some and take it easy. That doesn’t mean business as usual at 80 miles an hour. Nor does it mean that you should go 10 miles an hour on the freeway because there’s a light mist falling. (Does it make me a bad person to enjoying seeing the yahoo who went by at 80 facing the wrong way against the center divider a few miles later?)

Appropriate response is a good thing. Whether you are dealing with disciplining a wayward child, or dealing with an organization that has provided a poor service for your money, or dealing with a perceived slight from a co-worker or family member - take a moment to think about the appropriate response BEFORE you act. Maybe now is the time to re-think your response regarding spiritual matters as well. Have you responded appropriately to God's calling? That's worth pondering about....


Opposites Attract

We seem to love things that are opposites of each other. Sweet and Sour Chicken is a great example. We put "hot" chocolate on "cold" ice cream. If we get dressed up, we often where black and white. Snacks are often sweet and salty or sour and sweet. We like to jump out of a hot tub into a cool pool. And "good" girls like to date "bad" boys. Some "good" people like to dress up like big, "bad" bikers and go to the local bar on weekends.

Those last ones open up a whole area of strange human behavior. Many times we like to be a little bad. We don't want to kill anyone or go to jail, but we like to be bad - a little bit. We just want to have some fun. I think sometimes this how people get into big trouble without really realizing what's going on. One classic example is cheating on your spouse. It's naughty and often times we think it will be a little fun and no one will really get hurt. We won't go to jail. It just a fun way to be a little bad. Ask Tiger Woods how that's working out for him. There's many other examples of this type of behavior.

It's like we are trying to have everything. We want to be bad and good. We want the respect of being a good person and we don't want the cops to harrass us, but we also like the alure of being a little bad. Why be a fence sitter? You can drive yourself crazy trying to lead a double life. It doesn't seem to be worth the headache. Can you imagine anyone at the end of their life wishing that had just been a little more bad? Me neither. So why bother with it? That's worth pondering about...

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15 (NIV)


Obvious Moments

Parents of young children often worry about child care. When our children were young, me and my wife were no different. We both worked and so at one point when our babysitter couldn't continue, we worried about what we were going to do. We were very blessed to find a wonderful family at church that was able to watch the boys. They stayed with this family the entire time until they started going to school. It was a great situation for us, and hopefully the other family. I guess they survived our boys, as we have remained close to this family these many years later.

At a recent event, I was introduced to an extended family member of this family. I had never met this man before, but he had often been to the house where they watched the boys and he remembered them. After we talked for a few minutes, he mentioned that often saw the boys on the way home from school on the bus. He remembered the boys well. The boys didn't remember him or recognize him. But he remembered them and would watch them on the bus each day with their friends.

At first glance this seems like a neat coincidence. But I believe it was more than that. Like many parents, I have often prayed for the safety of my boys. God seems to have answered my prayers. But now it seems that God has reminded me that he did answer my prayers. He provided a man who knew my boys, that the boys didn't remember and whom I had never met, who was on the bus each day with them. Someone, who if needed, would have stepped up to help my boys.

I have a friend who says "God is good all the time, and sometimes it's really obvious." I love those obvious moments. Those moments don't always happen as often as I'd like them to. But when they do it is so cool!

Sometimes I wonder what I've done to deserve such favor from God. Then I remember, I haven't done anything. God loves me and provides for me as a good father cares for his children. Not because I am great, but because He is great.


What's Important?

This holiday season was quite a bit different than I expected. I was expecting a regular holiday. We have a bit of routine down and it's good. I was going to get some time off and do a few minor projects around the house. Just kind of lay low and enjoy the time off. It didn't really work out that way, but I'm ok with that.

However, part of the holiday was really unique, and dare I say it, even special. It was totally unexpected. Without going into all the details, several times during this holiday people did something or shared something with me and my family that was very thoughtful. We got one card from someone who really took their time to write something very nice and uplifting. We were invited to share the evening with some friends. Someone shared something with me about what had made their year one of the best ever. Just some little things. Nothing big. Certainly nothing expensive. But that's what made it so cool. It was personal. These things probably wouldn't mean much to anyone else, because they were custom tailored for me.

It really made me reflect on what is important. I tend to be very task oriented. I guess that's not all bad, someone has to get stuff done. But I need to be careful not to be only task oriented. Tasks don’t matter near as much as people do. I know that, but I’m afraid I don’t always act like that.

Take the time to be part of the lives of the people around you. Think about where you, your family and your friends are headed – not only in this life, but for eternity. When you are part of someone’s life, you have influence. You can make suggestions that could help in the course of their life. That’s a good thing. The question is, what suggestions are you making? What course adjustments are you responsible for? That’s worth pondering about.